2015 Statistics: .279/.339/.359, 25 doubles, 6 triples, 2 homers and 17 SB between Double-A and Triple-A
2015 Level/Roster Status: Triple-A/Non-40
Stop me if you've heard this one before: The Yankees have an outfield prospect that can run, play solid defense and hits left-handed. Seriously, did Hal and Hank invest in a factory a few years ago? Let's take a look at how Jake Cave fared in 2015 and cast an eye towards his future in Pinstripes.
When the Yankees took Jake Cave in the sixth round of the 2011 draft out of Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, VA, they figured that, sooner or later, they'd have a nice little prospect on their hands. Cave came with the reputation of having a decent bat, albeit with little power, good speed, and solid defensive abilities. Unfortunately for Jake, sooner became later when he fractured his knee cap in his first professional game. He would go on to miss two full seasons while recovering from surgery.
After a setback or two along the way, Cave was finally able to play a full season in 2013, and he more than held his own in Low-A Charleston. As a 20-year old that season, Jake hit .282/.347/.401 with 37 doubles, 6 triples, two home runs, 31 RBI and 18 stolen bases, which was a big accomplishment considering his circumstances. The Yankees pushed him aggressively in 2014, sending him to High-A Tampa to kick things off, and he responded extremely well. In 90 games, Jake hit .304/.354/.395 with a WRC+ of 116, also stealing 10 bases and gathering 25 extra-base hits. That earned him a midseason call up to Trenton, where he kept the party going to the tune of .273/.344/.455 with four home runs in just 42 games.
The Yankees sent him back to Trenton again to start 2015, and he showed that he could handle the league pretty well, hitting .269/.330/.345 with 17 SB and 29 extra base hits in 125 games. Cave was called up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at the end of the year, and lit up International League pitching for the final week of the season, hitting .458/.517/.667 in seven games. I won't put too much stock into that because it was such a tiny sample size, but I think Cave showed that he's probably ready to start next year in Triple-A.
It's hard to judge what kind of success Cave will have in this sport. One of the knocks on him last year was that, while he has speed, he wasn't a very good baserunner, as he'd only been successful on 67% of his stolen base attempts, but he managed to go 17-20 in that department last season, so he's either running faster, or smarter. He's also shown a bit of a platoon split, only hitting .194/.250/.218 against southpaws last year, and not faring much better in other seasons either. It will be interesting to see if that holds up. His complete lack of power is going to hold him back at some point, because the Yankees have a ton of guys that do exactly what he can do or more: Brett Gardner, Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Aaron Judge, Ben Gamel; the list goes on and on.
The Yankees' major league and Triple-A outfields are fairly crowded right now (assuming everyone is healthy and stays healthy), so it will be interesting to see where the Yankees put him to start next season. You could make the case to give him one more half season at Double-A, with a call to Triple-A once Judge, Williams, Heathcott or Gamel hopefully join the big league club. You could also make the case that he's got enough time at Trenton to give him a full season at Scranton. I lean towards the former, because a little experience can go a long way in this game.
Either way, it will be interesting to see what happens to Cave's stock after his age-23 season. I have a feeling we'll probably be able to gauge his true future by the time next year's roster report cards come along.